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New York City unveils proposal to close Rikers Island jail complex, validating community-led effort.

In March 2017, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio committed to close the city’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex, motivated largely by well-attended protests and community advocacy such as the #CLOSErikers campaign.Michael Schwirtz, “De Blasio to Unveil Plan for Rikers While Warning It ‘Will Not Be Easy’,” New York Times, June 22, 2017; and #CLOSErikers, How Do We Close Rikers (New York: #CLOSErikers, 2017).

The decision came after the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, chaired by former Chief Judge of the State of New York Jonathan Lippman, released its March 2017 final report, A More Just New York City, which made recommendations for improving the local justice system in the city.Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, A More Just New York City (New York: Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, 2017) Made up of two dozen civic leaders, experts, and advocates, the commission spent a year studying New York City’s justice system, conducting extensive quantitative data analyses, meeting with experts and people impacted by the justice system, and soliciting ideas from the public.Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, A More Just New York City (New York: Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, 2017)

Among other changes, the commission recommended ending the use of money bail, investing in crime prevention and diversion, using pretrial risk assessment instruments to guide pretrial release decisions, expanding the use of pretrial supervision, reducing delays in case processing, eliminating short sentences, and increasing alternatives to incarceration.Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, A More Just New York City (New York: Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, 2017). at 15-16. The commission also recommended that New York City close the “dysfunctional” Rikers Island jail and replace it with smaller facilities operating near the courts in each of the city’s five boroughs.Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, A More Just New York City (New York: Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, 2017). at 17. The commission’s recommended 10-year timeline for the closure, however, has been decried as too long to wait.The #CLOSErikers campaign demanded that Mayor Bill de Blasio “[m]ake public a plan for closure that includes meaningful community input, with a timeline of less than 10 years.” #CLOSErikers, How Do We Close Rikers (2017), at 1 (emphasis in original). In June 2017, the city released its own roadmap—“Smaller, Safer, Fairer”—and formed a task force to move toward closure.City of New York, “Mayor de Blasio Announces ‘Smaller, Safer, Fairer: A Roadmap to Closing Rikers Island’,” press release (New York: Office of the Mayor, June 22, 2017); and City of New York, “Smaller, Safer, Fairer,”